German Jews slam ‘Israel apartheid’ comment

Social Democrat chairman Sigmar Gabriel to meet Israel’s ambassador and German Jewish leader.

German SDP head Sigmar Gabriel_370 (photo credit: Michaela Rehle/Reuters)
German SDP head Sigmar Gabriel_370
(photo credit: Michaela Rehle/Reuters)
BERLIN – Sigmar Gabriel, the chairman of Germany’s second biggest political party who last week called Israel an “apartheid regime,” is slated to meet with the head of Germany’s Jewish community and the new Israeli ambassador.
Yaakov Hadas-Handelsman became ambassador in Berlin on March 9.
Gabriel, 52, who will likely run for chancellor in 2013, wrote on his Facebook site Wednesday following a visit to Hebron, “It’s a zone without legal rights for Palestinians. It is an apartheid regime, and there’s no justification for it.”
Dieter Graumann, head of the Jewish community, told the German media that “what Gabriel said is completely screwed up.”
It is morally imbalanced to call for negotiations with Hamas, which openly seeks to destroy Jews worldwide, and at the same time to denigrate Israel as an “apartheid regime,” Graumann said.
Gabriel called for Israel to negotiate with Hamas. He sought to visit the Islamist group in the Gaza Strip, but because of the Gazan rocket fire into Israel he could not gain access.
Philipp Missfelder, a deputy in the Bundestag and foreign policy spokesman for the Christian Democrats, wrote to The Jerusalem Post in a phone text message on Thursday, “I advise against the political upgrade of Hamas.” Germany and the EU recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Email queries to Gabriel and to Tobias Dünow, a spokesman for the Social Democrats, on Friday regarding Gabriel’s views were not returned.
Fabian Weissbarth, a representative of the Social Democrats’ Berlin youth organization (Jusos), wrote to the Post in an email, “Jusos Berlin calls on Sigmar Gabriel to distance himself” from his statements.
There is “in no way a justification” for calling the situation in Hebron an “apartheid regime,” Weissbarth said.
Kevin Zdiara, a representative of the German-Israel Friendship Society in Erfurt, criticized Gabriel in a lengthy article on the website “Die Achse des Guten” for using his trip to Israel to visit Hebron while “more than 200 rockets were launched at Israel, forcing more than one million Israelis to live in a state of emergency and deadly terror... One could have expected that he would have at least condemned with clear words this new wave of terror.”
German media reporting on Gabriel’s trip to the Middle East has been dominated by his criticism of Israel. His comments have electrified German-language social network sites and major media organizations.
Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, posted a response on his Facebook site calling Gabriel’s comment “‘idiocy’ that reflected poorly on his party,” JTA reported.
Gabriel, however, garnered praise from the PLO’s top diplomat in Germany, Salah Abdel Shafi, for his parallel between Israel and apartheid.
“The statement of the SPD [Social Democratic Party] chairman is a courageous and truthful contention. He earns respect for his statement,” Shafi wrote on Friday on the German- language website of the PLO’s diplomatic mission in the Federal Republic.
Henryk M. Broder, a top German Jewish journalist and prolific writer on contemporary German anti-Semitism, told the Austrian daily Die Presse that “I do not believe that Gabriel is an anti-Semite, rather he is an idiot” in connection with his apartheid remark.
The daily Die Welt quoted Rudolf Dressler, a Social Democrat who was ambassador to Israel from 2000 to 2005, strongly disapproving of Gabriel’s comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa.
While Gabriel’s Facebook page contained protests against his anti-Israel posting, Sacha Stawski, the head of the Frankfurt-based media watchdog organization Honestly Concerned, wrote the Post on Saturday that Gabriel’s Facebook has also attracted a sizable “collection of anti-Semites, both brown [neo- Nazi] and Islamic,” supporting Gabriel’s perceived efforts to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.
A leading political columnist for the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger daily wrote on Friday that Gabriel could have noted that there is an Israeli Arab minority in the Jewish state, “while in Palestine Jews cannot survive without army protection.”